“Dick Tracy” Turns 75

by Chris BarrickOctober 20068 Comments

October 2006 marks the 75th anniversary of when Chester Gould (Oklahoma State 1921) first introduced the world to “Dick Tracy.”

Chester GouldBorn and raised in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Gould attended Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) and later transferred to Northwestern University to finish his degree. Gould pledged the Alpha-Eta Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha at Oklahoma State shortly after starting school.

After graduation, he was hired as a cartoonist with the Chicago Tribune. Gould then spent the next 10 years working on three other comic strips before “Dick Tracy” was introduced.

The Official Launch

On October 4, 1931, “Dick Tracy” first appeared in the Detroit Mirror, one of the Tribune owned papers, then in the New York Daily News, then the Chicago Tribune, and many, many more.

The comic strip was so popular that it appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News for 45 consecutive years, and it was seen in 27 foreign papers.

The origin of Tracy was explained by Gould in an interview he did in early 1936 for the Editor and Publisher and this was reprinted in the November 1936 issue of the Cross & Crescent.

Dick Tracy Watch“I have always been disgusted when I read or learn of gangsters and criminals escaping their just dues under the law, and for that reason I invested in Dick Tracy a detective who could either shoot down these public enemies, or put them in jail, where they belong,” Gould said.

He added: “Tracy is always two steps ahead of Mr. Criminal in all his adventures, and that is how the average person would like to see the police function in dealing with hardened crooks of all types. I try, however, to avoid casting aspersions in any way on police officers. While I may reveal the crooked side of politics, I show the honest side as well.”

Creative Genius

Besides being a good storyteller and incorporating sound investigation techniques in his comic strip, Gould introduced numerous inventions which he used in the story for good or for evil.

These devices provided a foundation for developments in the future and most importantly, established working models for anti-criminal aids for policemen.

Dick Tracy - Chester GouldSome of the inventions he included in his comic strips were the two-way wrist radio, atomic light, portable surveillance camera, closed circuit TV Police showup, electronic telephone number pickup, magnetic air car, and many others.

Gould personally did all the artwork and writing. He would first sketch the drawings in pencil, and then trace them with pen and ink. He never prepared dialogue in advance but rather wrote it as he sketched.

On December 25, 1977, Gould retired at age 77, and he died eight years later on May 11, 1985.

Gould’s work won him the Reuben Award for 1959 and 1977. He was also given a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1980.

Much of the history and memorabilia of “Dick Tracy” can be found at the Chester Gould-Dick Tracy Museum located in Woodstock, Illinois. This non-profit organization was established to display, promote and honor Gould’s work and achievements.

8 Responses to ““Dick Tracy” Turns 75”. (leave your response)

  1. Cross & Crescent » Chapter News Says:

    […] Seventy-five years ago this month, the world was treated to Chester Gould’s (1921) creation of the “Dick Tracy” comic strip. A creative genius, Gould entertained millions with his tremendous storytelling. […]

  2. steven alles iy1126 Says:

    We have the bottom picture (Follow Tracey’s Lead!!!) that is signed by Gould hanging in our House at Ferris State University.

  3. William Schaefers Says:

    I still read Dick Tracy every week (thanks to the internet), a habit I picked up in my youth. In fact I caught up two weeks worth last night.


  4. Dan Stewart Says:

    I remember playing Dick Tracey for our 199? Homecoming parade. We are very proud to be the House where Chester Gould was initiated.
    In ZAX, AH 1536

  5. Jason Landkamer Says:

    I agree with Stew, it’s great to be from the house Chester was initiated in. We have his drawings hanging from the walls next to the charter.
    In ZAX AH1493

  6. William Lacaff Says:

    Growing up in Kansas City, my dad every Sunday morning would read Dick Tracy to me.It is unbelievable to be initiated in the same house as brother Chester.
    In ZAX AH 828

  7. John Cloud Says:

    Indeed it is a great thing to be in the house that such an inspirational man was initiated in! For the record, AH Zeta is up and booming again after a scare a few years back! We are getting support again and just remodeled the house last summer! AH 44 is and always will be remembered for his great work.
    In ZAX AH 1695

  8. Cross & Crescent » Founders of Kappa Kappa Psi Says:

    […] note that all of these men were members of the Oklahoma State Lambda Chi chapter at the same time Chester Gould (Oklahoma State 1921), famous creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, was also a […]

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